Teen comedies

TMPLadies and Gentlemen, we’ve made it to another Thursday! This week our friend at Wandering Through the Shelves had us exploring teen comedies, which means that one of us actually sat through Porky’s. True story.

Matt

Thanks to Wandering Through the Shelves for inspiring me to watch so many great movies this week. The term “teen comedy” made me wince at first until I realized how many of them I actually love. I really struggled to get my list down to 3 this week.

American Graffiti  Set in 1962 during the last night before two high school grads head off to American Graffiticollege, four friends spend one last hilariously wild night driving around the strip trying to get laid, find someone to buy beer for them, and give a clingy 12 year-old the slip. Most teen comedies are made by filmmakers looking for easy money but, in 1973, few people thought there would be an audience for this story and Universal apparently sat on the finished film for months before finally getting around to releasing it. It became a surprise hit and one of my favourite movies of all time. Filled with energy from beginning to end- not to mention the music of the 50s and early 60s-, it’s like Superbad just with less dick drawings. It’s a rare thing to see a teen party movie made by such a celebrated and talented filmmaker (George Lucas).

HeathersHeathers- “Dear diary. My teen angst bullshit has a body count”. The genre doesn’t get much darker than this. Teen murders made to look like teen suicides inadvertently brings much-needed (albeit phony) attention from the students, faculty, and media to this very real problem. Director Michael Lehmann and writer Daniel Waters apparently made the movie partly as a reaction to the John Hughes movies that they despised and it doesn’t get much different from Pretty in Pink than this. I found the dream-like tone disorienting at first but I was quickly won over by the twistedly hilarious writing and a great lead performance by Winona Ryder.

SuperbadSuperbad- Sometimes less dick drawings isn’t necessarily a good thing. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg started working on this script when they were 13 and it shows. The pair have never written anything else so far that felt so personal. It’s filthy as it gets and quotable as hell (“The funny thing about my back is it’s located on my cock”) but what’s most impressive is that it never forgets what it’s really about. Two best friends who have been joined at the hip for years are experiencing lots of separation anxiety knowing that they’ll be going to different colleges next year but can’t bring themselves to talk about it. It’s excruciatingly awkward to watch at times but also pretty sweet. And did I mention that it’s quotable? “This plan has been fucked since Jump Street and it’s all because of that used tampon Fogell.”

Jay

superbadWell Matt and I have come to our very first agreement – Superbad. The chemistry between Michael Cera and Jonah Hill is supergood, and though neither likely attended much actual high school, they sure capture the awkwardness with great gusto.

Saved! Set in a private Christian high school, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) is lead singer in the Christian Jewels. Mary (Jena Malone), her best friend and band mate, begins to pull away as she i-am-filled-with-christs-love-saved-mandy-moore-gifdiscovers that her attempt to degay-ify her boyfriend Dean has resulted in a not-so-immaculate conception. She finds solace in the school’s only alternatives – Jewish bad girl Cas (Eva Amurri), Roland, the paralyzed atheist (Macauley Culkin), and Patrick, the skate-boarding pastor’s son (Patrick Fugit). It’s got all the familiar trappings of a classic teen comedy – the cliques and the outcasts, the bumbling parents, and the prom – they just happen to be coated thickly in Jesus. And on that level, it’s a great subversive critique of religion. Hypocrisy and high school – can you imagine a better pairing?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off   I’m expecting to see this on each and every list today because Ferris is ferristhe seminal teen comedy. We may as well have stopped making them, or at least seeing them, after this point, and nearly all that are made can’t help but reference it. Ferris Bueller, at the age of 17, knew how to take a day off. How many of us can say the same even now?

jawbreakerJawbreaker Bonus pick! This is not the best movie, but it’s a sentimental favourite. The Mean Girls of the 90s, three of the school’s most popular girls (Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and someone else) accidentally kill the prom queen in a kidnapping prank. A cover-up of the crime is discovered by the school nerd (Judy Greer) and only the promise of a makeover and popularity will keep her quiet.

Sean

Teen Wolf – I first saw this movie before I was a teenager at a slumber party. I don’t rememberteen wolf much from that first viewing but I remember loving it. I mean, wolf Michael J. Fox was pretty much the best basketball player ever. And watching it now adds a whole other level of comedy because it’s so dated and so cheesy but so great. Probably the worst sports scenes ever filmed though.

billandtedBill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – this is without question one of my favourite movies ever. I remember renting it for a week (along with a rental VCR of course) and watching it over and over and over. The history presentation is both the most awesome and most stupid climax to a movie but I always wished I could put together something as randomly great for a school project or anything in life.

Dazed & Confused It’s the last day of school in small town Texas 1976. The seniors are hazing dazedthe freshmen, and everyone is trying to get stoned, drunk, or laid, even the football players that signed a pledge not to. “Alright, alright, alright!” in the scene at the drive-in was Matthew McConaughey’s first line ever spoken on camera and is now basically his trademark. His  production company, JKL Productions, comes from Wooderson’s life credo: Just Keep Livin’!, so it’s safe to say that this movie was as big for him as it was for us. This movie is one of the best ensemble casts of my generation. Absolutely everyone is in this movie – it’s unbelievable how many familiar faces are here. I can’t say whether Dazed and Confused properly captures the 1970s teenage experience but it is so timeless and universal that the time period doesn’t matter. Richard Linklater really captures what it is to be a teen while taking us on a hilarious ride. Incidentally, the other movies on my list are more personal favourites and I don’t pretend they are actually good movies, but this one is not only good, it’s great. If you haven’t seen it you need to.

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32 thoughts on “Teen comedies

  1. mattasshole Post author

    I’m so glad you picked Saved! I even liked Mandy Moore in that. I loved how she would turn Jesus into an adjective all the time. Like “I love that band, they’re so Jesuscentric” or something.

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  2. Dan

    SAVED! LOVE that movie. So frickin’ funny. Love all the teen actors in it. I also LOL-ed at “Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and someone else” – poor Julie Benz! (Not that I remembered that was her, either…)

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    1. Jay

      I didn’t remember it but I did IMDB it. I chose to leave it out because I’m an asshole (remember?), and figured it’s not a reference that would mean anything to anyone anyway. Apolgies to Julie Benz’s mother if she’s reading this.

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  3. Modesto

    Jawbreaker is everything! Everything about it is so over the top.

    Superbad is hilarious. I seems to be getting a lot of love this week. I this this is the only film where I actually like Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill…

    Films set in Catholic schools make me wish I attended one. The Craft make’s it seem so fun, but movies like Saved make me happy I never attended a Christian school, ahha. Great film either way!

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  4. Andrew

    First, Matt…so awesome we went 2/3 this week and especially that you mention American Graffiti!

    Second…SAVED!!!!!!!! I always forget about that movie, but it’s so funny…SO FUNNY! Mandy Moore…I’ll just never get over how incredibly hilarious she is in that movie. I wish that she could have capitalized on that and actually turned it into a great acting career. Shame.

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    1. Jay

      Agreed. It was really unexpected from her and I loved it, though I loved the whole cast. It definitely gets a little lost but that’s the wonderful thing about this weekly challenge!

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    2. mattasshole Post author

      Yes! I was pretty excited when I saw your list and it’s especially cool since this is one of those weeks that I’m really stoked about. I love all three of my picks and so many others that I didn’t have room for.

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  6. joelnox

    Great collection of choices. Haven’t seen a couple of these-Superbad and Jawbreakers, though they are on my list to catch and they’ve turned up on a few lists which piques my interest even more.

    Bill and Ted, Dazed and Confused, Heathers and Teen Wolf are all films I enjoyed but didn’t love, they fit the theme so well though. I’ve tried with American Graffiti several times thinking each time I’ll discover why people love it so much but I’ve always remained indifferent to it.

    Now my two favorites from your lists. Ferris is such a joy ride, where did that elfin charm of Matthew Broderick’s go? He’s still an decent performer but that sparkle in his eye is gone. I saw it in the theatre originally and it was a great way to experience it for the first time. The audience’s laughter was so infectious it just made everyone laugh harder. Saved! is a different kind of funny laced as it is with darkness but it equally enjoyable. It has such a wonderfully skewed viewpoint.

    I have a weakness for teen comedies so I had a devil of a time narrowing down and ended up with a couple extra plus one from the 40’s. Mine are:

    Fired Up! (2009)-Two high school jocks, played by two actors who are in their mid-twenties if they’re a day, think they’ve discovered the perfect hunting ground for girls, Cheer Camp!! Zany, utterly ridiculous, highly enjoyable comedy is far more fun than it has any right to be because of a game cast and two hilarious supporting performances by Juliette Goglia as Poppy, the mini tycoon sister of one of the main characters and John Michael Higgins as Coach Keith the clueless, hyperactively happy leader of the camp.

    Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)-A breezy, silly comedy with good performances and a snappy pace. The whole setup is preposterous but once this one gets past its bumpy intro scenes it actually becomes a more focused story of a young girl finding her way through unexpected responsibilities. Christina Applegate, Joanna Cassidy and Keith Coogan make the film better than it should be.

    A Date with Judy (1948)-A time capsule of teen-hood in the movies in the 40’s. Jane Powell and Elizabeth Taylor are best friends competing for the same guy, an impossibly young Robert Stack, and various other minor problems mixed in. Jane sings several songs along the way. This makes a good contrast with what teen comedies have become today and yet the main theme of getting the guy/girl or making them jealous has stayed the same. It’s just presented in a different way.

    Honorable Mentions-Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)/She’s All That (1999)-In Can’t Buy Me Love when a nerd played by Patrick Dempsey, long before he became Dr. McDreamy, realizes the most popular girl in school is in a spot he pays her to help him get noticed by the IN crowd. In She’s All That jock Freddie Prinze, Jr. makes a bet that he can turn wallflower Rachael Leigh Cook into the prom queen. Best part-the prom turns into a full blown musical number with EVERYONE knowing the steps to a complicated dance routine!

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    1. Jay

      Oh I looooove Don’t Tell Mom! Great pick on that!
      Yes, Matthew Broderick was such a scamp, so infectious. We saw him on Broadway a year or two ago and he was a lot of fun, seemed more like his best self.

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  7. Wendell

    Porky’s…one of my picks…ouch! Heathers is great, time for a rewatch from me. Teen Wolf is a bit of a favorite around my house, but yeah, definitely the worst basketball scenes ever. The boxing from Teen Wolf Too might be the worse sports scenes.

    Glad to see Saved! get a mention. I really enjoy that movie for precisely the reasons you give. Mandy Moore is great in that one.

    Nothing left to say about Ferris Bueller.

    Great work, guys.

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    1. Jay

      Porky’s has been on my list to watch for years – my whole family was going to see Titanic together, mom, sisters, grandmother. My grandmother took the opportunity to tell us that this would be her first time at the theatre since seeing Porky’s. Now, I knew enough that it was supposedly a bit of a ‘dirty” movie and couldn’t imagine my grandmother making a trip to see it – even worse imagining my grandfather (an admitted and enthusiastic dirty old man) dragging her to see it. Apparently it was bad enough that she wouldn’t go back for 16 whole years. Imagine my embarrassment when there was a naked lady in this one too!

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  8. cinemike16

    Matt – American Graffiti and Heathers were great picks, unfortunately I cannot say the same about your 3rd choice – Superbad was alright for a few jokes but they got old quick and the entire movie doesn’t hold up for many repeated viewings.

    Jay – Cannot express enough how much I loved Ferris Bueller’s Day Off growing up, I used to watch that one all the time. Haven’t seen Saved! or Jawbreakers yet, but they’re now going on my watch list.

    Sean – Teen Wolf and Dazed & Confused are excellent choices, I haven’t seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure yet.

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    1. Jay

      Ferris is just classic, the ultimate cool guy, when a cool guy could be scrawny and wear sweater vests. I know Matt says how quotable Superbad is, but I think Ferris is the crazy quotable one…and is still referenced 30 years later. Not sure if we’ll be able to say the same of any of these other movies.

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    2. mattasshole Post author

      It’s funny, I had the opposite reaction to Superbad. I really didn’t see what all the fuss was about but found I enjoyed it more every time I watched it. Rare for a comedy.

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  9. That Moment In

    Just watched American Graffiti a few weeks ago for like the fourth time, I think. Love that movie. Nice list. I’ve seen every one but Saved. Must add it to the my growing list.

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    1. mattasshole Post author

      Right? There are classic teen comedies that came out 10-15 years after American Graffiti that feel much more dated. AF has aged very well. You must check out Saved too. It’s very smart and very underrated.

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